It's not fun to see when it pops up in a spread… we think heartbreak, disappointment, jealousy, betrayal, pain, sadness, despair. I've heard this card described as heartache that impacts the mind and the ability to make decisions, which makes sense as it's in the suit of Swords, and therefore pertains to the intellect. I've also experienced this card in a reading as representative of someone considering betrayal, which again fits with Swords in that it's a decision that affects emotions.
|Radiant Rider-Waite/US Games|
But one of my favorite interpretations, which I've seen recently when it was in relationship to the 5 of Cups in a reading, is the idea of rising above the pain of disappointment and heartbreak so that clear decisions can be made. In other words, having the strength to be logical and intellectual in the midst of sadness; the ability to make sensible decisions by rising above pain, and taking a good look at the reality around you. This is not easy, and in fact I think it only comes after having spent a long period of time grieving - even if the grief has become a regular part of life to the extent that it isn't always obvious or immediately recognizable. It still sits below the surface. But something must happen, a catalyst that gently shifts the focus from the three empty cups to the two that are still full. And I think that card is the 3 of Swords. Spears of clarity pierce through the pain-riddled heart, encouraging mind over matter, with the promise that with each step the road will become easier.